The Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957

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An Act being piece of Central Government’s legislation was enacted by the Central Government in the 8th year of republic of India, with the name and short title as ‘The Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Act, 1957’ (Act no. 20 of 1957). The same is to provide for establishment of greater public control over the Coal mining Industries in the economic interest of Nation and also for the development thereof by making provisions of acquisition of land by the State, which contains or likely to contain Coal deposits. The Act was given assent by the honourable President of India on 8th day of June, 1957. The entire territories of India, except the territories comprising State of Jammu and Kashmir, are the subject of this enactment. And on 12th day of June, 1957, the provisions of this Act were brought into operation and effect by the Gazette notification of the Central Government. However, the provisions of this Act were amended several times by several Amending Acts such as Act no. 51 of 1957, Act no. 58 of 1960, Act no. 23 of 1969, Act no. 54 of 1971, etc.

The Act requires the Central Government to appoint competent authorities under this Act. Under the provision of the said Act, initially Government declares its intention to prospecting through a notification under Section 4(1), in respect to the land wherein the Coal is likely to be obtained. The validity period of said notification is for two years, which can be extended by one more year through a separate notification. And bases on such notification, the competent authority and its servants, workmen, if any can enter upon such land and cause survey thereon and can also do all necessary acts to prospect for Coal in such land. In the effect of the said notification, the prospecting licence as to prospect for Coal or any other mineral, if any, which were having force in relation to such land, to be ceased to have effect and also mining leases, if any, authorizing holder thereof for undertaking operations in the Land should also be effect less.  And after the Central Government satisfied that the Coal is obtainable in such notified land, then it can issue a notice of intention to acquire such land. And after hearing the objections from the interested persons in relation to the said land by the competent authority, the Central Government will make declaration in relation to the acquisition of such land.

Special provisions are also provided by the Amending Act of the same year i.e. 1957, stating that the Central Government should have special powers, in case of emergency. It is made clear in the emergency provision that the land can be acquired by the Central Government, without considering the objections first and there will be made directly the declaration to the effect of acquisition.

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And in all cases, after the declaration so made under this Act, the Central Government will vested with the land or any rights over such land, absolutely, without any encumbrances. And on such vesting, the Central Government will have power to direct that the land or rights so acquired to be vested with the Government Company, after being satisfied that the said Company is ready and willing to fulfil the terms and conditions, if any, imposed by that Government in relation thereto.

The Act also provides for several provisions regarding payment of compensations to those who are suffering from such acquisition, including compensation to those whose prospecting licenses are ceased or their rights provided under the Mining lease are acquired. Certain methods for determining the amounts payable as compensation are also provided.

The Central Government is vested with tremendous powers under this enactment, including power to delegate certain powers or duties to the specified persons which that Government can exercise or discharge, power to obtain information, etc. from any person who was in possession thereof. The Competent Authority is also vested with the power to take entry in any property and can also inspect the same. Notably, the Civil Courts’ jurisdiction is barred in respect of matters for which the Central Government or Competent Authority is empowered under this Act. The rule making power is vested with the Central Government in this Act and in furtherance with such power that Government has provided for the Coal Bearing Areas (Acquisition and Development) Rules, 1957.

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As such, the present enactment is making provisions as to acquisition of the land for Government Companies only, for the purpose of Coal mining and activities strictly incidental thereto. And for all other requirements, like permanent infrastructure, offices, residence etc. the land is still acquired under Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

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